MASSAGE THERAPIST SELF CARE TOOLS. The best tools to get out of pain and stay pain free.

self care Feb 03, 2021

All massage therapists realize the importance of self-care for some part of their body after their first week of 25-30 clients. 

Whether it's hands, thumbs, neck, or back hurting, massage therapists find some form of self care necessary during their career.  

Here we'll take a look at some of the best tools a massage therapist can use when fatigue or muscle soreness sets in. 

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Types of self care tools


Cryotherapy or cold therapy can be used when you feel an overuse injury coming on or have signs of inflammation.  Common overuse injuries of the hands and elbow can benefit from cryotherapy as self care.

The tendons of the elbow can be iced with this method if a massage therapist has elbow tendonitis.  Tennis elbow is common with massage therapy work, as is golfer's elbow. 

The most common type of cryotherapy is ice massage using ice cubes to rub over the over-worked area.  A favorite form of Cryotherapy for many massage therapists is the ice cup. This can be home-made by freezing water in a small paper cup and tearing off half the paper when ready to use, leaving the other half as a handle to hold during ice massage.  


Heat as therapy has long been used to bring more blood flow to an area, and the warmth usually relaxes people, which makes heat therapy a favorite. 

There is moist heat, which some massage therapists prefer, but dry heat can also be effective.  

Many forms of heat packs can be home-made or easily purchased at a wide variety of grocery or drug stores.  

Heat packs are something you, as a massage therapist, already may have if you use them with your clients.

Alternating ice and heat is an option for fatigued muscles after a long week of massage clients. 


Self care for massage therapists should include getting a regular massage, but self-massage is second best.  We will cover many different types of tools for self-massage so you can find your favorite.

Self-myofascial release

Another type of self-massage is myofascial release, and I like to think of foam rolling as an option for myofascial work when a massage therapist needs to do some for their self care. 

Thoracic openers

Massage therapists who are familiar with yoga will know about thoracic openers.  Any spinal flexibility tool or technique to open the front body will be talked about in this category. 

Yoga block

The yoga block makes a good thoracic opener as well as sacral release.  Placing the block along its long edge for the thoracic spine, you can lay on your back with the block along the spinal column. Arms out to your sides like a cross, hold, and breathe. You will feel your chest opening.  Video demo here.

The short edge of a yoga block gives a higher lift for the sacrum.  This can be a rather extreme angle, so begin with the long side and move up to the short (taller) side as you place the yoga block at your sacrum. 

Lay back with your knees bent, shoulders and head resting on the floor, and the yoga block under your sacrum.

This will relieve back tightness and fatigue and is a good choice for self-care of your back. 

Exercise ball

These exercise balls are also called Swiss balls or Physio balls.  They are the large balls filled with air that make a great spinal opener if you lay backward on them.

First, sit on the ball, then walk your feet away from you as you lay back onto the ball. Your feet are your support for safety, so take your time and get them set. 

Once you are laid back, your shoulders, head, and entire spine should be supported by the ball. It will look like a supported backbend. 

You can feel a stretch through your spinal muscles, abdominal muscles and can use it as a stretch for your pectoralis muscles if you hold your arms out to the sides. 

Read about ways to use the Swiss ball for exercise at home.


Self-massage self care tools

Foam rollers

These rollers come in varying degrees of density, allowing massage therapists to have a less deep roll of the muscles and soft tissue or a deeper self-massage. 

The possibilities are endless for muscles to roll with the foam roller, and you can watch a full-body foam rolling routine here for massage therapists' self-care. 

You can foam roll the back, neck, glutes, legs, feet, and forearms, which all massage therapists need. 

If an area hurts too much to roll with body weight, try using the foam roller against a wall.

Tennis balls, lacrosse ball or racquetball

These balls are handy to pack when going somewhere or have nearby at work to use in between clients. 

The tennis ball has more give to it, so it is the ball to choose when you want a self-massage that isn't as deep.

The racquetball is the next level up, and the lacrosse ball can be used to massage an area deeply.

Some favorite ways to use these balls for massage therapists' self-care are at the base of the skull, on the flexors of the forearms, and the glutes.

Sub-occipital tools

As a massage therapist, you may have seen some of these tools on the market, specifically for the sub-occipital muscles. The CranioCradle, Still Point Inducer, or my favorite to use on tight sub-occipitals, are tennis balls.

Muscle roller sticks

These stick-like massage tools have handles on either end with rolling balls, knobs, or pads in the middle to run up and down legs.  The quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves are the most common muscles to use this self massager on. 

A favorite in my massage clinic was the Tiger Tail because it didn't get caught on men's leg hair.  The pulling of hair takes away the purpose of self-massage for massage therapists' self-care.

Trigger point self-massage

If you do trigger point work or neuromuscular therapy with your massage clients, you will love this tool. The Thera-cane is a hard plastic cane-like tool with rounded balls at the ends. 

It can be used on various muscles, but probably the best use is for specific work around the scapulas.  When the broad surface of a foam roller or even tennis ball isn't working for a particularly stubborn sore spot, the Thera-cane will be your new best friend.

It allows you to reach muscles on the back and top of shoulders ergonomically and with leverage thanks to the hook design.  Video Demo here.

Supraspinatus, upper trapezius, rhomboids, and lats all get strained after long weeks of massage work, and the Thera-cane can get the specific spots that will make you feel better.

Hip Flexor Release

As a massage therapist, you know low back pain can mean tight hip flexors or psoas muscles. 

Just as you would check both areas on a client, you should remember to check your hip flexors if you're experiencing low-back aches or pains.

The tennis ball is too small to massage the hip flexors effectively, so try The Orb. It's got about a 5" diameter and works perfectly to lay prone on to release the hip flexors. 

Video demo here

Mention it to your clients who sit at a desk all day, are cyclists, or after a plane flight.  This is a really nice way to have iliopsoas tightness released at home or in between professional massages. 


Massage therapists are in the business of helping others, and to do that for years, a self care routine is important.  Try some listed here and pick a favorite or two for your go-to self care after a long day seeing clients.  

Until next time

Be strong, be fit, and get your self care on


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